China has powered up its first domestically developed nuclear reactor — the Hualong One — a significant step in Beijing’s attempts to become less dependent on Western allies for energy security and critical technology.
The reactor, which was on Friday connected to the national grid, can generate 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and cut carbon emissions by 8.16 million tonnes, the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC, 中國核工企業集團) said.
“This marks China breaking the monopoly of foreign nuclear power technology and officially entering the technology’s first batch of advanced countries,” CNNC said in a statement.
Nuclear plants supplied less than 5 percent of China’s annual electricity needs last year, the Chinese National Energy Administration said, but this share is expected to grow as Beijing attempts to become carbon neutral by 2060.
Reducing its dependence on Western allies in critical high-tech sectors such as power generation is a key goal in Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” plan.
Billions of dollars in state subsidies have been given to Chinese companies to speed the process — a move that has angered China’s trade partners and sparked a protracted trade row with Washington.
Work on the Hualong One reactor started in 2015 and there are six other reactors under construction at home and abroad, state-owned plant operator CNNC said.
Hualong One, deployed at a plant in Fuqing in China’s Fujian Province about 200km from Taipei, would be put into commercial use by the end of the year after undergoing tests.
China has 47 nuclear plants with a total generation capacity of 48.75 million kilowatts — the world’s third highest after the US and France.
Beijing has invested billions of dollars to develop its nuclear energy sector in the past few years as it struggles to wean its economy from coal.
Thirteen nuclear plants are under construction, more than in any other country, despite environmental and safety concerns.
In August 2016, officials were forced to shelve plans for a nuclear waste facility in Lianyungang, a city in Jiangsu Province, after a rare public protest by thousands of residents.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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